Tag Archives: simone


 Thanksgiving isn’t an Italian holiday but Italians really romanticize it.  It fits perfectly with their love of family, food and tradition.  Our friend and practically adopted son, Chef Simone Proietti-Pesci from Umbria makes an annual pilgrimage (no pun intended) to Washington to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Menard family and to do some special guest chef appearances at Via Umbria and as a private chef in customers’ homes.
This is Simone’s delicious take on turkey that uses a few fresh ingredients to bring out the flavors in a turkey.  And this recipe is best enjoyed with a special bird.  Try it with one of our local, cage-free Fields of Athenry Farms turkeys.  You can order yours online and pick it up on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving!

14-16 lb turkey
Pork lard
Rosemary, Sage, Bay Leaves, Juniper Berries, Garlic
Olive Oil
Peeled Chestnuts


Mince together the herbs and garlic and mix into the pork fat.  Season the turkey with salt and pepper on the skin and inside.  Rub the turkey with the pork fat – on the skin and under the skin.
Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan surrounded with olive oil and peeled chestnuts.
Roast the turkey at 325* for 30 minutes per pound.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.  Serve with the roasted chestnuts.


 Thanksgiving isn't an Italian holiday but Italians really romanticize it.  It fits perfectly with their love of family, food and tradition.  Our ...

108 Hours in Cannara

108 Hours in Cannara 006Nothing says summer to me like spending a few weeks in Umbria, visiting friends, finding new and interesting products for the store, enjoying Umbria jazz, and, of course, relaxing by the pool. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out as planned- a lesson we learned last week during a whirlwind visit to to Cannara. I warn you now, the details of this trip are not for the faint of heart, the easily tired, or the weak of liver- read along at your own risk

Thursday, July 14, 2016

After many days of postponing and rescheduling our trip, we finally made it to the airport, bags in hand, happily seated at our gate, ready for a short but amazing trip to our favorite place only to find out that the flight was delayed. Not just delayed, extremely delayed. By the time we finally (rather crankily) boarded the plane six more hours were gone from our already truncated vacation but we were determined to make the most of it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

108 Hours in Cannara 0056:30pm With our original scheduled arrival time in Rome of 7:24 am we had planned to have lunch with Simone in Bevagna. With the flight delay, however, lunchtime was long gone by the time we left Rome but we beelined for Simone’s anyway (after making a quick stop at Lufra to pick up fresh mozzarella di bufala of course).  We arrived at  le Delizie del Borgo just in time for Spritz O’Clock and spent an hour catching up with our fourth (and favorite) ‘son’ Simone over a platter of salamis and cheese.  

7:30pm When we finally made our way to the Farmhouse, Jennifer McIlvaine and Federico Bibi pulled up behind us with their adorable children, and after a few minutes of excited greetings in the driveway we opted for drinks in the living room.  For those of you suffering through the current east coast heatwave you will find it impossible to believe, but despite being the dead of summer, it was way too cold to sit outside!  

108 Hours in Cannara 002Inside we found Marco and Orusia firing up the pizza oven, and friends of ours from Washington who were staying with us at the Farmhouse soon returned from a day of touring. Not far behind them were our son and his girlfriend whom we picked up at the Foligno train station- the last piece of our group.

Marco outdid himself, as always, and our raucous group enjoyed pie after pie with a bit of spicy bomba and Birra Perugia.  A small taste of Nutella pizza to end the meal.

12:00am No idea what time it was when bedtime finally rolled around but it was definitely  a long day.



108 Hours in Cannara 007

Saturday, July 16

1:00pm After catching up on our zzzzzs our intrepid group headed to Bevagna for a “light” lunch with Simone.  It was another beautiful day and we happily enjoyed our meal outside in the park.

5:00pm I finally had to give in and take a quick nap while Bill took a group to Foligno on a hunt for a Sicilian pastry shop to satiate a craving for cassata, and a visit to the Granarium (our nearby zero kilometer granary, mill and bakery) for a tour and to buy flour, bread and cookies.


7:30pm – It’s a birthday celebration and we have invited several (see below) of our Italian friends to join us.  We were hoping to eat outside, but again it is too cold and the Italians want nothing to do with the chilly, fresh air.  We have Spritz by the pool and then head indoors where Marco has rearranged the dining room to accommodate our small party of 25.  In addition to the group staying with us we are happy to have Gerardo and Assunta Ribigini, Jennifer and Federico (tonight they are senza children), Albertino and Jessica Pardi, Zia Augusta, Alberto, Linda and GianLuca Pardi and Linda’s mother, Federico and Claudia Ribigini and Daniele Sassi.

108 Hours in Cannara 003

108 Hours in Cannara 0018:15pm Everyone has brought wine so we have a selection from Terre Margaritelli, Pardi and Tabarrini to pair with a favorite summer meal – fried sage leaves, onions, zucchini and zucchini blossoms followed by pasta with arugula and walnuts, mixed grill and vegetables from the garden.

10:00pm We have sparklers in the Birthday cake but the real fireworks are outside.  Marco has picked up a fabulous pyrotechnic display and Bill has it matched perfectly to Whitney Houston’s Star Spangled Banner.

Sunday, July 17

6:00am – early departure to Cantina Dionigi for a Hot Air Balloon Ride.  You can read about it here.

108 Hours in Cannara 008

1:00 pm – Lunch in Bevagna with Simone, Marco, Francesco Rustici and his wife Elisa, plus the group at the house.

An opportunity to introduce our guests to our favorite Italian Tradition – Sunday Lunch.  Our children have bravely endured lunches lasting anywhere from 3-7 hours and despite their protests as children they have come to love and expect them.  This is a meal where the food is slowly paced, no electronics are on hand and everyone is engaged in conversation.  

6:00 pm – Not a Menard record – but still an excellent leisurely lunch.

Back to the house with Ombretta’s children Silvia and Tomaso for a quick swim before the sun sets.

108 Hours in Cannara 010

7:00pm – Albertino and Jessica stop by to visit and we make plans for dinner on Tuesday night.

8:00pm – All plans of attending a local wine festival get scratched in favor of setting up the big screen outside and picking up pizza.  Another chilly night so we bundle up and hunker down to watch a movie.

Monday, July 18

108 Hours in Cannara 0099:00am – Up by 9:00 to play cards with Tomaso and Silvia (who have opted to spend the night) and say goodbye to our guests.  

11:00am – The sun is shining and we take a break to sit by the pool and swim with Tomaso and Silvia.

1:00pm – Off to Cantina Tabarrini to see the new renovation – it’s breathtaking.  Giampaolo’s plans and ideas are exhausting but the result is going to be amazing.  We are treated to an excellent meal prepared by Franca and Federica – food fresh from their garden and an introduction to a new label and the latest release of Montefalco Rosso.

6:00pm – Back to the house for a couple of quick business calls and emails – it’s a work day after all.

108 Hours in Cannara 0117:30pm – Dinner at Cantina DiFilippo

Roberto is just back from his winery in Romania but he has the horses all set up for a sunset carriage ride through the vineyard. Elena and Bianca Maria are fantastic hosts and we enjoy a flight of Asiago cheeses and plenty of wines.

Enjoying a beautiful night with friends with Assisi lit up and sparkling in the distance.

Tuesday, July 19

8:00am – Up early to pack and return emails.

1:00pm – Off to lunch at the home of Marco’s parents, Anna and Lodovico Palermi where we are joined by Chiara, Carlo Alberto and Viola and Chiara’s mother Mariella.

3:30pm – Back to the house to Visit with Augusta.

6:00pm – Time to pack up.

108 Hours in Cannara 0127:00pm – Off to Cantina Pardi for a farewell dinner of Jessica’s Korean specialities.  It’s not easy to find all the staples for a Korean feast in the heart of Italy but Jessica makes it all seem simple and delicious.

10:30pm – Quick stop in Bevagna to say goodbye to Simone.  The circle is complete.  We have seen everyone and enjoyed our brief visit.  It’s time to go home and share our experiences, stories and hopefully a few new tastes at Via Umbria.

108 Hours in Cannara 013

Wednesday, July 20

6:00am – Early morning and departure for Rome FCO and back to DC.  Bill gets the honor of captaining the early morning drive.  I sleep.

Not the most relaxing summer vacation – but it’s easy to trade in relaxation for good friends, good wine, and good fun. Italy is such a magical place, but the most special thing about it for me has always been the people and it’s trips like these that remind me how lucky I am to have found such a great community in Umbria. For those of you who were not able to come with us on this trip, we encourage you to keep apprised of the goings on in the store.  Rumor has it a few of these friendly faces may be popping up in Georgetown in the next few months. And for those of you looking to book your own vacations in Italy, give us a call! We are happy to share our experience, and our farmhouse with you.

Traveling with Bill and Suzy Menard Read more

Nothing says summer to me like spending a few weeks in Umbria, visiting friends, finding new and interesting products for the store, ...

Food and Wine Tour

For those of you fully indoctrinated into the Via Umbria lifestyle, you are well aware of our friendship with Chef and Restauranteur Simone Proietti-Pesci. At his newly re-opened restaurant in Bevagna, he serves up dishes all by himself in his tiny kitchen. Everything he creates is an extension of himself and his region; he crafts meals with care, love, and intent, with a dash of character on top to finish.

Local Mushrooms
Local Mushrooms

On the Food and Wine Tour, our new stateside chef, Vickie Reh, worked side by side with Simone in his kitchen, preparing a meal for everyone on the tour. A few bottle of fabulous local wine were procured, corks popped, and gentle conversation began before the first plate arrived. And then another. And then another. And then another.


With the ingredients bought and collected that day, these two chefs created an Umbrian meal to remember. And one that we will hopefully be able to recreate stateside when we open.

Simone's business partner, Ombretta, pours wine for the first dishes
Simone’s business partner, Ombretta, pours wine for the first dishes

Our guests were able to discover the thrill of a single – channel kitchen, savor the dishes served with much love, and share the effervescence and friendship that comes naturally to Simone. While the food Simone produces is always stellar, the mood his restaurant and manner put you in are ever more important. You are not just a guest, you are a new friend.


Couscous as a first plate
Couscous as a first plate

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Ombretta gets a hug
Ombretta gets a hug
Arugula, Almond, and Pomegranate salad
Arugula, Almond, and Pomegranate salad

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Vickie prepares the second course
Vickie prepares the second course

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Local Meat
Local Meat


Handmade tortellini
Handmade tortellini
The pasta is a hit
The pasta is a hit



A Simone Classic - deconstructed lasagna
A Simone Classic – deconstructed lasagna
Grilling the mushrooms
Grilling the mushrooms


Simone's partner and dishwasher observe
Simone’s partner, Desiderio, and the dishwasher observe the calculated madness

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The finale - fall apple torte
The finale – a fall apple torte


Being at Simone’s, it is easy to feel at home…that is if your home had a private Italian chef (and you can hire him here in the USA, in January!). A relaxed atmosphere, perfect wine, and haute cuisine that makes you feel comfortable made for a night to remember.

Simone will be returning to the United States in January for his annual dinners – in your home and at Via Umbria in Georgetown. Email suzy@viaumbria.com for advance registration, interest, and questions. We can’t wait to share the dishes and personality of our dear friend with you.


Ci Vediamo!

–Via Umbria


Cooking and Eating with Simone Read more

For those of you fully indoctrinated into the Via Umbria lifestyle, you are well aware of our friendship with Chef and Restauranteur ...


Delizie Grand Opening 052
This was going to be the year Suzy and I did not make our annual summer visit to Italy. Instead of hot summer Cannara days and cool Umbria Jazz under starry skies, taking the place of rocky Ponza beaches and breezy Ischia sailboat trips we would remain in steamy, sultry Washington, our attention focused squarely on completing – or at least moving forward – the renovation and reopening of Via Umbria as an Italian market.

But life often has other plans for you. Plans that do not align perfectly with the gantt charts and timelines that get you from demolition to grand opening. And so this week life threw us a curveball that said “I want you to come to Italy.” A fat hanging curveball that we swatted all the way from Washington to Bevagna. Life told us that our friend Simone was going to have his own grand opening, the reopening of his restaurant le Delizie del Borgo and we decided, emphatically, that were not going to miss it.

So with progress at Via Umbria slightly stalled and the opportunity present to sneak away for a few days we scoured the online travel websites, landing a perhaps too-expensive but unassailably priceless pair of tickets that would take us from home to Bevagna for Friday’s grand opening. We were on. And no one knew we were coming.

Suzy and I have been boarding flights to Italy three or four times a year now for the past decade, and we always feel a sense of excitement about the possibilities that lie ahead. What new adventure will we discover? What new friends will we make? What unforgettable dish will we eat or bottle will we drink or fresco will we see? But boarding the non-stop flight to Rome, in fact getting into the car for the two hour drive to the airport was an experience so filled with excitement, made us so downright giddy, that you would think it was the first time we’d ever flown.

Upon our arrival in Rome we were met with cobalt blue skies and a blazing sun that our Italian friends have reminded us all summer long has scorched the Italian peninsula this year. But carefree we settled into our little rental Fiat 500, cranked up the air conditioner and hit the autostrada, making record time thanks to carry on luggage. After a brief stop in Todi to explore a little bit and enjoy lunch, by early afternoon we were in Bevagna, home of le Delizie and our home for the next four days.


The terrazza

When seven o’clock rolled around (the hour the celebration was slated to begin) we got sidetracked on a call back home, finally emerging from our albergo about an hour late and hoping we hadn’t flown across the Atlantic only to miss the celebration. But as we exited Bevagna’s city gate and made our way up the path that leads to the Campo dei Frati public park that houses the new Delizie, the overflowing parking lot and the music gently wafting through the trees told us that a celebration was going on.

Delizie Grand Opening 010Delizie Grand Opening 012
Our first glimpse of Simone and Ombretta’s new restaurant was one that will be hard to forget. When we departed Italy last November the pair had opened their restaurant in Bevagna’s public garden, taking over a humble kiosk that served ice cream to park dwellers and served as a simple snack bar for the locals. But that simple edifice included the bones for a kitchen and over the winter Simone and Ombretta planned and cajoled and tirelessly worked toward constructing a permanent outdoor structure to house their dream. That first glimpse confirmed what we already knew. Simone and Ombretta are excellent dreamers. And tonight their dream had become a reality.


Built around the old snack bar kiosk was a beautiful glass structure, a sort of winter garden lit from within by a soft golden glow that cast its warmth onto the outdoor patio seating which was itself covered by two enormous umbrellas. Under the umbrellas, crowded inside the pavilion and lounging on park benches a hundred well wishers were laughing and chatting, eating and drinking and sharing in the moment of triumph for their friends. Just as we had arrived to do.

About fifty feet from the restaurant entrance we were recognized and discovered by Simone’s partner Desiderio, whose eyes bulged Marty Feldman-like and who threw his hands to his face Macaulay Culkin-like. As we stepped into the dining room Ombretta spied her surprise visitors with a look of shock that immediately turned to tears. And a moment later, Simone working in the kitchen spotted us through the window, matching Ombretta tear for tear. Within seconds the entire group was engaged in a speechless hug, our anticipation finally being realized, their surprise just now being processed. It was indeed a magical moment that exceeded anything we had or could have imagined.

Delizie Grand Opening 001

*                      *                      *

Delizie Grand Opening 023Our second visit to the new Delizie del Borgo was likewise a surprise affair. Two days after our arrival and Simone’s grand opening we had booked a table for lunch for 20 at the restaurant, but under the guise that the party would be the family staying at our nearby farmhouse la Fattoria del Gelso. In the meantime our colleague Marco had invited a bunch of our local friends to join him for lunch to celebrate Simone’s reopening. Instead, as they assembled in the parking lot outside Bevagna’s Porta Cannara we surprised them with our presence and then paraded up the pathway and into the park where our little fraternity (which had swollen to 25) congratulated and paid their respects to Simone. And then proceeded to spend the next six hours enjoying a casual lunch and many, many bottles of wine under the giant umbrellas in the warm breeze of a hot Umbrian summer day.

Delizie Grand Opening 046

The magic of sharing Simone’s triumph and the opportunity to laugh and spend time with those we hold dearest in Italy made our impromptu surprise visit to Umbria a memory that will last a lifetime. And it reminds us why we love coming here, for here in Umbria, the “green heart of Italy” renowned for its fertile soil bursting with bounty, the thing that grows best is friendship.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

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We couldn't stay away for long! Read more

This was going to be the year Suzy and I did not make our annual summer visit to Italy. Instead of hot ...

Happening in Umbria

Simone cooks his handmade pasta for a naked lasagna
Simone cooks his handmade pasta for a naked lasagna

For those of you who already know and love Simone Proietti-Pesci, for those who have had an opportunity to meet him in Cannara, Bevagna, Washington, DC or across the U.S, and for those who will meet him on his annual trip in January: his restaurant – le Delizie del Borgo – is having a grand re–opening this weekend!

Le Delizie del Borgo is one of our favorite restaurants in Umbria and is always our first stop when we drive to Cannara after landing in Rome.  Located in a quiet public park just outside the city walls of Bevagna and just pochi passi from his old location, the new Delizie del Borgo is a perfect mix of indoor air conditioned seating and outdoor seating in the park.

Simone and partner Ombretta always use the freshest seasonal ingredients to create dishes that are both traditional and new. Look for porcini mushrooms, wild asparagus, foraged herbs, fresh truffles and pasta made fresh daily.  And be sure to tell Simone that you’re friends of Via Umbria!


Simone and Dorrie Gleason prepare the first course

Chef Simone and Via Umbria Employee Elsa Bruno
Chef Simone and Via Umbria Employee Elsa Bruno

Simone's Grand Re-Opening Read more

For those of you who already know and love Simone Proietti-Pesci, for those who have had an opportunity to meet him in ...

Photo Diary: Umbrian Dinner with Chef Simone

Two weeks ago we had the delight of having Chef Simone create the perfect dinner for a small crowd of 18 people. Here are the photos from the enchanting night.

The guests wait patiently for the first course
The guests wait patiently for the first course
Simone and Dorrie Gleason prepare the first course
Simone and Dorrie Gleason prepare the first course


Slicing Cheese

Via Umbria owner Suzy Menard
Via Umbria owner Suzy Menard

Italian Dinner Party

Chef Simone and Via Umbria Employee Elsa Bruno
Chef Simone and Via Umbria Employee Elsa Bruno
Simone cooks his handmade pasta for a naked lasagna
Simone cooks his handmade pasta for a naked lasagna

Dinner Conversation

Asparagus and Fava Bean Puree is dished up
Asparagus and Fava Bean Puree is dished up

Simone Priotti Pesci

Third Course
Third Course, paired with Sagrantino

Potatoes with Pork

Want to cook with Simone in Umbria this summer? There are still two weeks open in July.

And if you’re loving the fantastic hand-painted plates, hop on over to Emporio to shop our recently opened online ceramics store!

Ci Vediamo!

–Via Umbria

Snap shots from a special night Read more

Two weeks ago we had the delight of having Chef Simone create the perfect dinner for a small crowd of 18 people. ...

How To: Chef Simone Builds the Perfect Pizza

You know what makes everyone happy? PIZZA NIGHT.

The last time Simone hit the states we were lucky enough to have him make pizza for us. It was quite the experience.

Simone makes his own pizza dough, but if you feel like going the easy route you can always purchase from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. What really makes the difference is using imported 00 flour, specifically for pizza and pasta, when you roll your dough out. The light as air flour that lines the corners of your Neapolitan pizza? It’s 00.

After the dough has been perfectly flattened, Simone’s hands dip into the toppings, with input from the eaters, of course. Here are a few of Simone’s toppings:

organic tomato sauce 

broccoli rabe





brussels sprouts

red peppers

red onions

cured meats

ground beef

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With all these options, there were a few standouts from the night. Simone gamely played along as we argued over who got to generate the ideas for the next pizza. Here are some we loved:


The Kelsey

Zucchini, olive oil, sea salt, rosemary, parmesan


Sprouting Pizza

Olive oil, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, shredded mozzarella


Rossa Rossa Rossa

Marinara sauce, red peppers, pepperoni, mozzarella


Each of Simone’s pizzas only took about five minutes in a wood burning pizza oven, but if you’re working with an oven, pop yours in for 7-12 minutes on 450 degrees.


Of course, we pair our pizza with Birra Perugia Classic IPA.

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Wish you could get in on the fun? You can!  Simone is returning in the spring for four nights of merriment. Here are your options:


Thursday, May 28th at 7:00 PM – Umbrian Food and Wine Tasting

On Thursday, there will be a wine tasting at the home of Sue Cimbricz, in Bethesda. The evening will feature the wines of Giampaolo Tabarrini, as presented by Bill Menard from Via Umbria. Simone will be preparing tasting pairs for the wonderful wine. You can get your tickets for $50, here. For any questions, and for payment over the phone, contact Suzy Menard at 202.333.3904 or suzy@viaumbria.com.


Saturday, May 30th 5:00 PM – PBS Dream of Italy series premiere

Via Umbria is rolling out the red carpet in our Galleria in Georgetown to celebrate the premiere of the travel series Dream of Italy on PBS. Join host Kathy McCabe and Via Umbria owners Suzy and Bill Menard at the store on Saturday, May 30th at 5 p.m.

Chef Simone will conduct a cooking demonstration of traditional Umbrian delicacies and of course there will be plenty to taste. To attend the Dream of Italy party, free of charge, RSVP to Elsa at elsa@viaumbria.com.


Private Dinners for 10 guests, Friday May 29 and Sunday, May 31

Simone is available to cook a private dinner in your home for you and up to ten guests. Friday, May 29 and Sunday May 31, you can host up to 10 guests for $1,250. Contact Suzy Menard at suzy@viaumbria.com for more details about this exciting opportunity.


Seated Dinner with Simone, Monday, June 1st at 7:00PM

You can book a seat at the Menard’s on June 1st where Simone will be working his magic for $125 a plate. This four course dinner, paired with his favorite Montefalco wines, is sure to he a hit. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.


And We Share His Secrets With You! Read more

You know what makes everyone happy? PIZZA NIGHT. The last time Simone hit the states we were lucky enough to have him make ...

Simone’s Spring Bucatini


Our dear friend and chef Simone gave us his recipe for the perfect spring pasta, which we paired with the Montefalco Rosso from Scacciadiavoli last Thursday night. We needed a simple yet impressive dish to serve for a party of 30, and this pasta was perfetto. Fava beans are in season, both in Umbria and the US, and serve as the protein for this vegetarian dish, which can easily be altered to be vegan and/or gluten-free for guests with dietary restrictions. Ready in under 30 minutes and packed with the vibrant flavors of spring, it was a huge hit.



1 package all-natural Bucatini
1 bunch green onions
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup fava beans peeled
aged pecorino cheese
olive oil


Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil and salt and put on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until tomatoes are soft and lightly browned.  Peel fava beans (both layers) and steam just until soft and still bright green. Remove from heat immediately.


Boil pasta until al dente and drain.  Mix pasta and tomatoes in a large pasta bowl adding olive oil as necessary.  Toss in fava beans and green onions.  Season with salt and pepper to taste (you can add a pinch of chili pepper if you like).  Top with grated pecorino and serve!



Our dear friend and chef Simone will be returning to Washington DC for a few days at the end of May.


He has two evenings still available for private dinners in your home Friday, May 29 or Sunday May 31, where you can host up to 10 guests for $1,250. Or, you can book a seat at the table at the Menard’s where Simone will be working his magic for $125 a plate.


Contact Suzy at suzy@viaumbria.com or 202.957-3811 to book or for more details.

Taste the flavors of spring Read more

Our dear friend and chef Simone gave us his recipe for the perfect spring pasta, which we paired with the Montefalco Rosso from Scacciadiavoli last ...

Chef Simone’s Spinach Risotto


I recently had a dinner party, and reached out to our favorite Chef Simone for a quality risotto recipe. Risotto is wonderful for serving a crowd because of its long simmer time. After you throw the first ingredients in, it just takes a small stir every few minutes while you prep the other courses and make drinks. When my guest arrived 20 minutes late, it was no issue, as I just turned the rice to low and let it simmer for a little while why we waited.

This simple recipe was a huge hit, perfect for a cozy winter night in with some friends and a bottle of wine.



one large shallot

one cup white wine

vegetable or chicken stock


1/2 cup parmigiano cheese

two cups Gli Airioni rice

zest of one lemon

three cups spinach





In a large saucepan, cook the diced shallot in two tablespoons butter over medium-low heat, stirring until softened, for about 5 minutes.

Add the rice and stirring constantly add the white wine, until it is absorbed.

Continue adding stock, stirring constantly and letting each batch be absorbed before adding the rest.

Reduce the heat to moderate, if necessary, to keep the risotto at a simmer.

Continue adding the stock in the same manner until the rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, about 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, add the parmigiano. Mix well. Add the spinach and the lemon zeste and continue mixing. Serve with some more parmesan on top!






You'll want to have it everyday Read more

I recently had a dinner party, and reached out to our favorite Chef Simone for a quality risotto recipe. Risotto is wonderful ...

Menard Musings – Terroir

As February gives way to March (and aren’t we all looking forward to the prospect of non-Arctic March temperatures?) I can’t help but reflect that this young new year has for me featured a heavy dose of wine.  January was spent with Chef Simone crisscrossing the continent doing a series of promotional dinners that featured food/wine pairing nearly as much as the food itself.  February saw a return visit of our friend Daniele Sassi from the Tabarrini winery for a special winemaker’s dinner at DC hotspot Casa Luca.  And just a week ago we said our goodbyes to our friend Roberto DiFilippo, owner of DiFilippo and Plani Arche wineries who spent five days hosting winemaker dinners at Via Umbria and tasting events at the store.  Playing apprentice to and spending time around the table (always with glass in hand) with these professionals surely upped my wine game.  It was pretty darn enjoyable, too.

IMG_1072Chef Simone listens in at the Tabbarini Dinner at Casa Luca. IMG_1095

The first Tabbarini white wine is poured. IMG_1101



I am happily in a wine – induced haze after the first course. IMG_1360

Daniele meets with guests to personally talk about his Sagrantino wine. 



Suzy of Via Umbria gazes at the second course. 


And so it was with heightened interest that I read Wednesday’s Washington Post’s Food section article on terroir (“You can’t define terroir, but you can taste it,” Wash Post 25 Feb. 2015, p. E5).  In the article Wine columnist Dave McIntyre noted that terroir “is a word with almost mystical charms for wine lovers,” holding that wine shows terroir “if it tastes like it came from somewhere.”  Wine exhibiting terroir contrasts with most wines, which McIntyre rightly points out taste “as if they could have come from anywhere.”  McIntyre opines that wine enthusiasts love the idea of terroir and wines that taste as though they could have only come from where they actually came from.  If love of terroir makes one a wine enthusiast, send us our membership cards.

Our relatively recent journey into the world of wines has been heavily influenced and shaped by the concept of terroir because the wines we have come of age with are wines that define the term terroir – Umbrian wines and in more cases (no pun intended) than not, wines from the tiny D.O.C. wine region of Montefalco.  Look up the word terroir in the dictionary and it wouldn’t be a stretch to think you might find a map of Italy with Umbria highlighted in red.

In Umbria and in Montefalco a number of factors – relative isolation, local consumption and a fierce pride in local culture (which includes their food and wine) – have led wine makers to produce traditional wines that represent the region, that utilize indigenous grapes (so long, cabernet sauvignon) and that pair sublimely with the region’s food.  Put simply, the wines of Umbria taste as though they could have only come from Umbria.  What a wonderful attribute for a wine to have!

If, like Suzy and me, you cut your wine teeth in a deep dive of a particular region’s wine (e.g., Bordeaux, Napa, Australia) your wine chops are highly developed but only with respect to a small sliver of the universe of wine.  This has truly been the case for us, and our next challenge in this relatively unusual situation has been to transfer and apply our Umbrian wine knowledge more generally to other regions.  And so we have been working to learn and appreciate the wines of California, of Washington State, of France.  It is a pretty good challenge to face.

Aside from the blessing of terroir, our Umbrian wine experience has offered us the blessing of accessible winemakers.  In Umbria winemaking has not been mystified and deified.  It is a simple act carried out by real people.  And these real people – farmers – don’t intimidate and try to make what they do into something it isn’t.  Instead they gladly invite you into their world, show you the grapes in their fields, talk to you about how they entice the best fruit possible from the vine.  They let you put your head in a stainless steel vessel to see grapes fermenting, to smell the yeast and the offed gasses.  They pour you a glass of cherry red juice that is still two to three years away from maturity, explaining how a winemaker can judge how this awful liquid will transform itself into sublime beauty.


Roberto Di Filippo discusses his Grechetto with a guest. 





Roberto speaks from the head of the table in the Via Umbria Galleria. IMG_1795

Terroir paired with access to real people, wine people.  It is something that sets Umbria and Umbrian wine apart in our minds, something that has made our journey along the strada dei vini unique.  And it has made the new year a truly enjoyable one.

We can’t wait to see how the next months unfold.

Ci vediamo!

Bill and Suzy

If you are interested in experiencing Umbrian terroir and Umbrian winemakers at their source, join Bill and Suzy on their first annual Vinopalooza wine tour, March 26-April 1, 2015.  For more information click here or call Suzy at (202) 957-3811.

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Simone’s Super Bowl Snacks


This Super Bowl Sunday, ditch the store bought salsa for some real food. These recipes from Chef Simone are an Italian twist on some classic favorites to keep you warm, full, and happy (no matter the outcome) this game day.


And why not complete your foodie football day with some beers from Birra Perugia? Stop by our store in Georgetown to get your hands on the most unique imported brews and view the game in style.




Ground chicken meat



Parmigiano cheese



Sundried tomatoes – chopped

Sundried tomatoes –  paste

Materials: Carta Fata Paper, available at Via Umbria

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, setting aside part of the tomatoes.
Lay out the Carta Fata on a table, put the meat in the middle of the paper. Press and spread the chicken out until is about half an inch thick.
Put the rest of tomatoes in the center of the chicken. Wrap the meat well until you have formed a tube.

Close the top and the bottom of the tube with string.
Boil for 20 minutes in hot water. The Carta Fata will not melt because it is magic!
After boiling, slice and serve with fresh salad by the side. Drizzle olive oil over the entire plate and serve!





Beef ground 30% fat

Bread crumbs


Garlic parsley



Parmesan cheese

Egg yolks

Tomato sauce


Chili pepper



Mix the meat with Rosemary and sage, and then the breadcrumbs, egg yolks, and parmesean. Start to make little ball.

In a pan, sauté the garlic and add the tomato sauce. Cook the sauce with salt and hot pepper until it thickens. Add the meat ball and go on to cook for 20 minutes.










Tomato sauce

Chili pepper




Sauté the greens in a pan with the herbs too. When they are fragrant and cooked, add the beans (if using dried beans, they must be hydrated. The day before, put them in a bowl with water, and then boil them for 30 minutes and let stand). Sauté all of the ingredients little more and then add the tomato paste. Heat on low flame, simmering until soup becomes thick. Garnish with sour cream or Italian cheese and serve!


— Via Umbria 

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Simone’s Orecchiette with Broccoli


Chef Simone has done it again! His tasty Orecchiette with Broccoli recipe was a big hit at Via Umbria this past Wednesday.



Curious customers of all ages were able to watch the cooking process and enjoy the delicious end result!


IMG_7693 (1)   IMG_7730

In case you missed out, here is the recipe so that you can try it at home!

Orecchiette with Broccoli


  • 2 cups of broccoli
  • Anchovies filet
  • 2-4 cloves of Garlic
  • Chili pepper
  • ¼ cup of olive 0il
  • Salt



  • Boil broccoli in salt water for 3 minutes
  • Sauté garlic, chili pepper, and anchovies filet in olive oil
  • Add broccoli and cook for 10 minutes
  • Using water, boil orecchiette for 10 minutes
  • Drain and serve with a sprinkle of parmigiano

 Buon appetito!



— Via Umbria

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Chef Simone has done it again! His tasty Orecchiette with Broccoli recipe was a big hit at Via Umbria this past Wednesday. Curious ...